To most, Yosemite National Park is a summer destination…
And it’s really a pity, because there are so many reasons to visit Yosemite National Park in the winter. During the off-season in Yosemite, it’s not uncommon to have this beautiful park virtually to yourself, whether it’s in Yosemite Valley, one of the sequoia groves or out on the snowshoe trails near Badger Pass. Check the weather forecast, bring a good map, and enjoy a simple saunter or a challenging hike on quiet trails. Read on for seven more excellent reasons to take a wintry trip to Yosemite.
1. The bears are asleep so you won’t need to worry as much about them sniffing your car for food odors. The mosquitoes are likewise long-gone so your exposed skin is safe. In the snow zone, you don’t even need to worry about dirt – your boots will come home cleaner than when you left.
2. A fresh coat of snow on the granite makes you feel like you’re walking around inside an Ansel Adams photograph. Be sure to bring your own camera, and maybe go along on a free camera walk with the Ansel Adams Gallery.
3. Badger Pass is the West’s oldest ski area; it isn’t big but it’s a great place for families to learn to ski together. Badger has free cross-country ski trails that’ll get you way out in the forest, or to the astonishing rim of Yosemite Valley. Experienced rangers lead snowshoe walks every day to show you the winter season’s natural history.
4. The park’s three groves of giant sequoias are hushed cathedrals of tranquility on winter days. You can snowshoe (or if the snow has firmed up, just hike) into any of them for a solitary pilgrimage with their immense columns. Each grove is between 1-2 miles from the pavement.
5. The high country Tioga Road and Glacier Point Roads are still open – just not to cars. Experienced and well-equipped adventurers will venture on backcountry skis to the vast wilds of Yosemite to truly get away from civilization. Backcountry huts in Tuolumne Meadows, Glacier Point and at Ostrander Lake make such outings a little easier.
6. One of California’s only outdoor ice rinks is in Curry Village, where you can skate around beneath the tremendous view up to Half Dome and warm up next to an outdoor fire.
7. In late February, (that’s right, February) the wildflowers start to emerge in the lower canyon of the Merced River below the park on Highway 140. While Badger Pass may still have 6 feet of snow, you can hike the sunny and green Hite’s Cove Trail and take in the startling color of early fiddlenecks, crane’s bill, or waterfall buttercups.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have the same experience that John Muir had when he observed, “Most delightful it is to stand in the middle of Yosemite on still clear mornings after snow-storms…”